Hosted by Ty Schwamberger
Interview with Tom Piccirilli by Dean Harrison
Dean Harrison: Tell me about Every Shallow Cut.
Tom Piccirilli: It’s my latest noirella (noir novella), the story of a writer who’s recently lost his home and wife thanks to the economy. After a run-in with some punks on the streets of Denver, he’s finally pushed to the point of violence, buys a gun, and goes on a cross-country trek with his bulldog named Churchill to visit his older estranged brother. Along the way he relives and revisits his past, his let-downs, his failures, his fears, his guilty conscience and tries to make some sense out of his life. It’s a bizarre kind of a meta-fiction, taking certain emotions and events from my life and running wild with them.
Harrison: How is it different than your other noirs?
Piccirilli: Well, it’s not a crime or horror or crime story despite it being an extremely dark piece. It might be considered a mainstream piece, if that word even has any real meaning to it anymore.
Harrison: Can you draw any parallels between horror and noir? Why or why not?
Piccirilli: Horror and noir/dark crime/mystery are two sides to the same coin. Sometimes the same side, in fact. There is a great deal of crossover between horror and crime fiction. There always has been, but it seems to be happening even more and more in recent years. Due out soon from Sara Gran published the first novel in a new series entitled Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead, about a private eye who uses drugs, the I-Ching, and dreams to help her solve cases. It’s off the wall and brilliant and uses the best stuff from both crime and horror to weave its magic. Ken Bruen’s latest Jack Taylor novel is The Devil, which has Jack facing a criminal mastermind who might be Satan in disguise. Duane Swierczynski published Expiration Date, which is the story of a man who can take certain pills that make him time travel back to shortly before his own father’s murder, allowing him to attempt to solve the case and save his old man. Dark crime fiction can be just as dark in its own way as outright horror fiction.
Harrison: What is it about noir that appeals to you?
Piccirilli: It’s essentially real. It deals in grounded emotion and honesty. It focuses on people who are pushed to the breaking point or who have some common understandable flaw that leads them to their own doom, sometimes willingly. It’s sly and hits with great, disturbing impact.
Harrison: What is it about horror that appeals you?
Piccirilli: Horror appeals to me less and less the older I get. I can’t get over certain fantastical elements used to propel the storylines. I prefer subtlety, and a lot of recent horror offerings just aren’t that. I just don’t buy into them anymore, can’t allow my imagination to play along. Maybe the wheel will turn again one day, but for the time being I’m not a big follower of most recent horror fiction.
Harrison: Have you ever considered a “return” to horror?
Piccirilli: I do some short stories and novellas here and there, but most of them are still grounded in crime fiction first, with subtle dippings into the horror field. I have nothing against the genre, and if a story hits me right that needs to be squarely set in the horror field, then that’s where I’ll go to write it. I’m sure there’s another horror novel inside me waiting to get out. Who knows when.
Harrison: Do you see horror as an umbrella term under which crime, noir and suspense can be placed? Why or why not?
Piccirilli: Not Horror, but maybe Thriller. Crime, noir, and suspense probably all have a lot of thrills along the way, even if they don’t have blatant horrors. I think labels matter less and less nowadays. People just want good writing that affects them, whatever it is.
Harrison: Do you consider yourself a genre writer, or simply a fiction writer?
Piccirilli: Either/or. Like I said, I don’t really care about labels. If you dig the horror stuff and want to call me a horror writer, fine. If you like the crime fiction and call me a crime writer, I’m fine with that. If I’m genre to you, sweet, if I’m not, that’s cool too.
Harrison: You’ve been writing a lot of novellas lately. Do you prefer that length?
Piccirilli: I do. 20-30k words is a nice length to work at. Enough room to fully explore a particular story and you can keep the hammer down on the pedal the whole way through. It gives you the best of all worlds without any of the drawbacks so far as the writing itself is concerned.
Harrison: Are novellas selling better now in this fast-paced, video-driven world? Or have they always sold well?
Piccirilli: I think writers have always loved them and traditional publishers usually hate them. They’re short, so it’s difficult for a publisher to put a big price tag on them unless you’re doing some kind of a signed, limited edition in the small press or printing in huge letters with lots of white space left on the paper. Short novels used to be the backbone of the crime field during the pulp and Gold Medal days of the ’50s. In recent years they’re frowned on, but with Kindle and the small press I think they’ve made a resurgence. And the number of fans will grow.
Harrison: What is your opinion about the future of print?
Piccirilli: I’m as curious to find out what will happen as the next guy.
Harrison: Do you believe all novels, novellas, and short stories will be read on e-readers in the future? Will there be anymore bookstores and libraries? What is your opinion?
Piccirilli: I hope to Christ things mange to grow stable and we keep some of our bookstores. I really don’t want to think of a world without bookstores. I don’t mind e-readers or Iphone apps or whatever the fuck the next big e-thing will be, except where its likely to decimate physical books. I don’t have an e-reader yet and don’t hold any ill will to anyone who does, but I’m a bibliophile, I love books, and I need them in my life. I need to hold the weight of them and turn the pages. So I hope they survive.
Tom Piccirilli is the author of twenty novels including Shadow Season, The Cold Spot, The Coldest Mile, and A Choir Of Ill Children. He’s won two International Thriller Awards and four Bram Stoker Awards, as well as having been nominated for the Edgar, the World Fantasy Award, the Macavity, and Le Grand Prix de L’imagination.
Dean Harrison is a fan and writer of horror fiction. His first novella, “Off Limits,” came out in February 2011 in the Wicked East Press anthology, “Twisted Tales from the Torchlight Inn.” Dean resides in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama and is currently working on his first novel.
Ty is an author in the horror genre.
Stay tuned next month when Ty writes: An Epilogue. This will be the final article for the Ty-ing Up the Genre column on Hellnotes.